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Jo'Burg Days: The Gift Of Ageing

...Now Iím old, I can eat when I like, dress as I like, and live my life as I like, all within reason and making allowances for others...

Barbara Durlacher express a jubilant and encouraging attitude to life which has accompanied the arrival of silver hair.

Do read more of Barbara's many and varied columns by clicking on Jo'burg Days in the menu on this page.

Old age, Iíve decided, is a gift.

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person Iíve always wanted to be. Oh, not my body, but at least my mind and senses are getting there. Oh, sometimes I despair over my ageing body; the wrinkles, the bulges and the bags. Many times now, Iím taken aback by that old person who lives in my mirror (and who looks like my Mother!) but I don't agonize over it for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, and my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter stomach. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself and to others. I think I expect less, as Iíve come to realise that weíre all human and can make mistakes. Also, Iím less critical of my appearance and have noted that in the eyes of many, Iím invisible. Iím ready to accept who I am without trying to change my behaviour or my ways. I've become my own friend. I think Iím a nicer person without the stresses and strains of my younger days.

Remember when you were a little girl all you wanted was to get married and live happily ever after? Then, when you reached your teens, and your hormones were creating havoc, how many times did you look at your reflection and fret over a pimple Ďas big as a houseí before an important date? Impressing the boys was all that mattered, while having a boyfriend was every girlís greatest ambition.

At that age engagement and marriage was your biggest goal and after that, babies. Then came schooling and those ghastly teenage years. Building your husbandís career, and sometimes your own as well. Keeping hubby happy and placating servants, if you had them, or, even worse, running the house without them if you didnít. Remember those days in the office when little Tommy had the measles, or trying to cope when Rosie fell and broke her arm? And over and above it all, the endless hours spent driving.

Remember Momís Taxi, and the miles you travelled delivering and fetching kids from extra-mural activities? Long visits to grandparents or the seaside were restricted to school holidays. Now you can lock the door behind you and leave anytime you want.

Then, came the restless years, the, ďis this all there isĒ years, when even marriage, a house and kids did not give you what you had expected. Your husband filled his leisure-time with golf, or other less honest, activities. And sometimes, sadly all too often, this led to divorce, anger, heartbreak and a change of status, the loss of your home or a huge drop in income. It could take years to adjust.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a beloved pet dies? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect. So, Iíll dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60s and 70s, and if I wish to weep over a lost love... I will, I will.

While I try valiantly to control my weight, not out of vanity but because I know and understand the medical reasons for not getting too heavy as one ages, I donít believe in making myself miserable by refusing that last piece of cake, or a chocolate. Luckily for me, I donít have a sweet tooth, but I do love savoury foods and have to watch carefully that I donít eat too much salt which is dangerous as one gets older.

Itís easier now to accept a little untidiness around the house. Why fuss? Thereís only myself to please, and if I choose to leave a bundle of unfinished knitting on the sofa to pick up when watching television or have sandwiches for supper and roast chicken the next day thatís OK too. Now Iím old, I can eat when I like, dress as I like, and live my life as I like, all within reason and making allowances for others.

Whose business is it if I choose to work on my computer until 4 am and sleep until noon? Nobody else will know. Electronic communications have brought distant friends to my fingertips and absent children keep in touch by email or cellphone. Thereís little to beat the excitement of a video photo of the new baby, or a grandchildís new pet on the instrument in your hand.

Iíll walk the beach in a swim suit stretched over a bulging body, and dive into the waves if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet-set. One day, they too, will get old. I know Iím sometimes forgetful. But there again, thereíre some things that are just as well forgotten. Most times I remember the important things.

My hair may be silver, but Iíve kept most of it, and I like to think that itís laughter and not anger thatís etched into grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, itís easier to be positive. You care less about what others think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong, and if my opinions sound good in my ears, thatís OK, Iím happy with that.

I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person Iíve become. I wonít live forever, but while I am still here, Iím not wasting time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. Iím living in the present and Iím happy to be alive and part of this wonderful world of today. Who could ask for more?

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